Knoxville’s Pilot Flying J now has 496 outlets — combination gas stations and retail stores — that produced about billion in sales in 2011, the latest data available from the closely held company.
In football, you’ve got a coach who has to get the best players, put them in the right position, make them practice hard, and execute a game plan. The coaching job wouldn’t start paying until summer, and I wasn’t sure TV was going to make it.
So I went to work for Fleet Oil, which was getting into the wholesale business, in La Follette, Tenn.
If you do a lot of driving on the nation’s highways, there’s a good chance you’ve been a customer of James “Jim” Haslam II.
Starting with one gas station in 1958, Haslam has built the largest chain of travel centers in North America.
Sam had taught me all I knew, so I agreed not to build any locations near his gas stations for three years.
MORE HOW WE GOT STARTED: The Blue Man Group In 1958, there were a lot of independent, cut-rate stations on the border between Tennessee and Virginia.
The stations were little 200-square-foot buildings with restrooms on the side and six gas pumps. Our oldest son, Jimmy, was 20 when he took her seat on the Pilot board in 1975.
All we sold were drinks, Lance cookies, cigarettes, and motor oil. He was a senior at the University of Tennessee and started working full-time for the company in 1976.
Because of the tax situation, gas and cigarettes were cheaper in Virginia.
A station became available in Gate City, Va., and we bought it for ,000. By 1965 we had 12 locations in Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.